Although feminism and gender equality are concepts that have (thankfully) been in the mainstream for quite some time, the concept of real gender equality is now beginning to be geared toward men becoming part of and delivering on the philosophy, rather than just women fighting for it.
These are generalised terms of course — plenty of men have been instrumental in helping the feminist movements achieve traction in the past. But we can this trend even more clearly by looking at organisations like the Good Lad Initiative, at the helm of the new wave of the movement.
It can be easy to live in a bubble of some description: if you engage with equality issues then you are likely to see activism everywhere, if you don’t, then you might feel like its not a topic at the forefront of the collective agenda, but if you experience any kind of injustice or inequality in your day to day life due to your ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality, or anything in fact, then you know that equality is more relevant than ever.
There are various individuals, influencers and groups that are campaigning and fighting to end inequality and many that endorse equity. The Good Lad initiative is one of them. The movement is dedicated to seeking the expulsion of inequality — not just gender-based, but also in terms of sexuality and race. The organisation supports men in their journeys towards deconstructing and analysing their own attitudes and internalised ideas about ‘manliness’ and masculinity, a subject that can cause mental health issues, and significantly affects the lives of many.
This systematic examination of the practices that construct ingrained behaviours in society are absolutely essential in terms of creating a society that is safe, supportive and encouraging for all. The Good Lad initiative seeks to be accountable for the privilege afforded to certain social groups and how society generates repeated paths of privilege and it scrutinises and unpacks the role of masculinity in modern culture.
In much of the world, a patriarchal society has been the historical norm, and many places remain in this state. Cultures in which women are seen as the leaders, and the most socially powerful members of society, are few and far between. Even now, in relatively privileged countries such as the UK, gender inequality and toxic masculinity are rife.
Considering the progress that has been made to combat discrimination, which is huge, it is shocking how much inequality and prejudice is still evident in the world. My personal experience in the UK is that I try constantly to be accepting, encouraging and thoughtful about my own privilege in the world, but I know that I am not always successful. Here is where the Good Lad initiative comes into its own as an organisation that can discuss, advice and teach about how to be better.
By toxic masculinity, we do mean masculinity that hurts people who are less privileged than the ‘straight white man’ but also, masculinity that hurts the man himself. Another great source on this is the documentary: The Mask You Live In which is a fantastically accessible and enjoyable film about the way we construct masculinity in society and the damage toxic masculinity does to everyone in society. In a culture where emotion and vulnerability are treated like infectious embarrassments; no one is helped.
Toxic masculinity is only harmful. The Good Lad initiative seeks to put an end to Toxic Masculinity and the problems that arise from that underlying societal poison. They can be booked to appear in workplaces, schools and universities and I would urge everyone, regardless of gender, race or sexuality to engage with the inclusive company.
Leah is a literature graduate from Bristol. Likes: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, My So Called Life, Goodfellas, and Ally McBeal.